Unstable Journey – Beast Market
Pulsating drone-psych rock from Leeds hits the sweet spot. Joe Whyte reviews for LTW.
There’s quite a burgeoning scene of psychedelic/drone rock music at the moment; there seems to be new sonic explorers popping up from the underground on an alarmingly regular basis. I have also heard the expression “Nu-gaze” being bandied about but I sincerely hope the world is not due to be subject to that abomination anytime soon. You’d think in the glut of new bands ploughing a similar lysergic furrow, there’d be few very diamonds in the rough. Think again; I’ve heard a raft of great new psych/drone bands this last couple of years and here’s another to tickle your synapses and sprinkle goodness on your serotonin levels.
Unstable Journey (named after a favourite Guided By Voices track) are out of Leeds and this is their third album proper. The band have been through a glut of line-up changes but main-man Ian “Mitch” Mitchell has been the solid core around which Unstable Journey have grounded themselves. Previous albums Green Thunder (2011) and A Fire In the Trees (2013) garnered respectable reviews and gained the band a raft of support shows and airplay.
Beast Market was recorded (as were the others) at Ghost Town Studios and sees the band in imperious form. It takes a brave group to open an album with a song pushing ten and a half minutes but Weird Trash UFO is just that; sizzling and throbbing in equal measure, the multi-layered guitars and sparse, ghostly vocals ebb and flow around the rhythm section of drummer Mike Evans and bassist Ben Dawson. One thing that’s abundantly clear is that this is a band that can groove as well as go all-out war; Evans’s drumming is persistently classy throughout as his comrade on bass keeps the melodies and drive alive under the scarifying, effect laden guitars and occasional keys. This is where many fall down; the heart of this type of music has always been its ability to ride a groove and with Evans’s almost Mani-esque funky-drummer playing, they hit levels that keeps the interest in the red. The song changes feel several times, becoming almost waltz-time at one point. Ten minutes well-spent.
Clear Lines is a thing of brevity compared to its predecessor; Dawson’s walloping fuzz bass drives the song on a three-note, cycling riff. The guitars chop and prowl and there’s hints of a Vox Continental organ simmering away in the background. The song has a sinister, menacing feel and the dense, dark production adds to the malevolent threat in the song. Vocals are again at a distance amongst the maelstrom although phrases float in and out at will.
The Wasteland seems to me to be the central piece on the album. Again, a lengthy track, it starts with bubbling sounds and spacey guitar figures before giving way to a driving, baleful thunder that is perhaps reminiscent of the sound of the mills that were once upon a time the industry that Leeds thrived upon. It’s virtually an instrumental and eats its way into the brain.
The Maintenance Of Sameness is a twenty-some-minute behemoth of washes of guitar and heartbeat drums. Another ebb-and-flow moment (the album has several) it envelopes and carries like waves on the rocks and positively sizzles with atmosphere. Stick this on and let yourself drown in it.
Beast Market ends with a solo Mitchell on acoustic guitar on the song The Universe Will Sing for You. It’s a breath of melancholy at the end of, at times, a simply beautiful, frenzied and deranged journey.
Give them some love.
All words by Joe Whyte. You can find more from Joe in his author archive.